Michelmersh shows how brick brought character and individuality to Wembley’s huge Landsby housing development
Architect: Flanagan Lawrence
Brick: Michelmersh’s Floren Polaris
The Wembley Park redevelopment is on a grand scale. One of the largest such schemes in the UK, it is transforming the long-neglected space around the iconic Wembley Stadium into a new area of London.
Fundamental to its success is a series of new residential developments, the most iconic of which is architect Flanagan Lawrence’s Landsby development.
This giant scheme, with its distinctive grey-brick facades, has a towering presence on Olympic Way, the north-south processional route that leads spectators from Wembley Park Station to the stadium. ‘All the buildings along this historic route are at quite a heroic scale,’ says Jason Flanagan, design director at Flanagan Lawrence.
The Landsby development is actually two residential buildings – Landsby East and Landsby West – separated by a pedestrian street; together the buildings are home to 361 apartments.
Landsby East fronts the west side of Olympic Way. It is formed of two linked rectangular blocks: the northern block frames the view of the stadium and its arch from Olympic Way, while the taller southern block is pushed back, away from the route, to maintain the stadium view. The building’s architectural character is derived from a series of giant brick planes which extend beyond the apartments to enclose balconies on the north and south elevations; while on the east and west elevations, wide vertical strips are cut into these planes to surround rows of projecting cantilevered balconies, while narrower cuts frame the smaller bedroom windows.
The adjacent Landsby West is an L-shaped building. It is located next to Brent Civic Centre while fronting a new courtyard park, Elvin Gardens. This building’s scale has been addressed by subdividing it into a series of four distinct blocks; these increase in height from nine to 16 storeys as the massing moves away from the Civic Centre. The building’s stepped form also helps it relate to the Flanagan Lawrence-designed Alto building (the Landsby development’s predecessor), which it faces across the park.
While Landsby East, Landsby West and the Alto building each have their own distinct architectural character, all three are related to each other and to Brent Civic Centre (designed by Hopkins Architects) through the common architectural feature described by Flanagan as ‘hoops’.On the Civic Centre the hoops appear as frames on the facade to define the different zones of accommodation. Flanagan Lawrence developed this reference on Landsby where vertical brick-clad frames enclose the balconies on the east and west elevations of Landsby West. On Landsby East, however, the hoops are subtly incorporated into the monolithic brick facades where they frame the projecting balconies on the east and west facades.
This common architectural language is endorsed by developer Quintain. Julian Tollast, head of masterplanning and design, says all the Quintain buildings at Wembley Park ‘avoid a monostylistic solution but equally avoid a plethora of different styles’. He summaries this as: ‘architectural aquarium not architectural zoo’.
In addition to the hoop framing, what unites Landsby East and Landsby West is the use of brick to form the buildings’ sculptural, monolithic facades. ‘There are parts of the facade that are common to both so that they work as a pair, even if they are quite different,’ says Flanagan. ‘There is something warehouse-like about the extruded brick stripes framing the windows and balconies on Landsby East. It also made a lot of sense to use brick for the fins framing the balconies on Landsby West.’
When it came to selecting a brick for the scheme, the architect wanted a pale grey with a variation in tone and colour that, from a distance, would look uniform and monolithic ‘to give us the ability to create these very simple sculptural shapes,’ he says.
The brick selected was Polaris from Michelmersh’s Floren brand. ‘This is a beautiful brick which has a hint of whiteness; because of that it changes colour subtly as the daylight changes to give the facades a real dynamism,’ enthuses Chris Kallan, senior associate director at Flanagan Lawrence. He says matching the pale grey brick with a light grey-colour mortar was paramount to the success of the scheme. ‘The mortar complemented the colour of the brick and enhanced the contrast with scheme’s dark grey aluminium window frames,’ he says. The lighter mortar also helped to disguise the movement joints within the monolithic brick facades.
In fact, the use of the pale grey Polaris brick was such a popular choice that it has even been used internally on the exposed walls in the common areas of Landsby West where it enhances the ground floor reception, residents’ lounge and library.